Parenting Your Parents – State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)
By: Lillian Lalo
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Alabama News Network) – The State Health Insurance Assistance Program is usually referred to by the acronym SHIP. We sat down with Sandra Adams-Whatley, who explains how this program can help you or a loved one navigate the confusing world of Medicare.
“Medicare is confusing for everyone. I’ve counseled lawyers and doctors because when it comes to medical insurance, it’s not the same ball game,” Adams-Whatley said.
Because people live longer and work longer, the first step in navigating the world of Medicare is deciding when you want to start receiving your benefits. Will you begin accepting Medicare when you turn 65? Adams-Whatley finds that people who call SHIP usually make that call in anticipation of retirement. She says when you plan for retirement, people need to prepare for their insurance coverage to change.
Medicare is federal health insurance. In 2006, the government started contracting with medicare advantage plans which are state-specific. Adams-Whatley cautions that it’s essential to choose a plan that covers the county you live in and where you prefer to receive care.
“Some of the plans are not even offered in every county. For example, Elmore is right next to Tallapoosa county. We had a young lady who lived in Elmore county but went to the hospital in Tallapoosa county because it’s right over the river. So you have to make decisions like with neighboring counties. You can’t take for granted that every provider accepts the plans,” said Adams-Whatley.
The monthly premium for Medicare in 2021 is $148. There are state programs available that pay that premium. And Adams-Whatley said they do not advertise for this benefit. “So for anyone that calls in, we try to gather information on their income. And if they qualify, we help them with the applications.”
Adams-Whatley said they try to fill out most of the applications in advance to help make it easy. She also helps people understand what supporting documents they might need.
“We gain so much satisfaction from helping someone who did not know about the program. We’ve had people literally in tears saying, ‘I just will not take the medication.’ And we say, ‘look..let us see if there are any programs you might qualify for.’ It could save someone up to $6,000 a year in mediation costs,” Adams-Whatley said.
And remember to stay vigilant against scammers. “We tell everyone to protect their medicare claim number like you would a credit card number,” said Adams-Whatley.
Call 1-800-243-5463 for direct access to SHIP and all other AAA services.
There are no income requirements to use the services, and counselors will help everyone who calls.